America’s Black Mayors Are Attacking Joblessness

The U.S. now has several hundred Black mayors leading its cities. Might that be a great thing for unemployed African-Americans?

Posted: 07/01/2011 07:32 AM EDT
Filed Under unemployment, Economy

Michael Hancock

Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock. (Photo: www.hancockformayor.com)

As American politics gets more and more divisive at the upper levels, it’s becoming increasingly clear that if anything is to get done in this country, it needs to happen outside of logjammed Washington, D.C. As you can tell from last week’s same-sex marriage ruling in New York, sometimes state legislatures can have far more impact than “big time” senators and congresspeople. Similarly, mayors of towns big and small can often have drastic impacts on their locales. That’s why Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, says in a new commentary that he’s optimistic about the impact Black mayors can have on Black America’s unemployment problem.


The Black jobless rate is at a Depression-era level of 16.2 percent overall—17.5 percent for Black males. The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.


In November 2010 there were more than 500 African-American mayors representing cities across the United States. In a 2001 Black Enterprise survey, readers voted for the top 10 cities for African-Americans—seven out of those 10 had black mayors. Black mayors can ostensibly have a real effect on how welcoming African-Americans perceive it to be. But Morial says they can have a notable effect on policy, too.


Touting the qualities of two newly elected Black mayors, Alvin Brown of Jacksonville, Florida, and Michael Hancock of Denver, Morial says both have told him jobs are their No. 1 priority in the months and years ahead. (Brown will be sworn into office today and Hancock on July 11.) The Black unemployment problem remains the cause of heartache and headaches for millions of African-Americans. Perhaps what is needed is more Blacks in high places attacking the problem.


Hancock, for instance, is one of nine children and was occasionally homeless growing up. One of his sisters was murdered, and a brother died of AIDS. If anyone understands the struggles of America’s Black poor, it’s him. If a mayor can empathize with the poorest of his constituents, that’s a good place to start rebuilding—it’s at least far better than another millionaire politician swaggering in and insisting that they know how to fix things for the poorest of the poor.

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